The Essential Writings of Christian Mysticism
This clear and comprehensive anthology, culled from the vast corpus of Christian mystical literature by the renowned theologian and historian Bernard McGinn, presents nearly one hundred selections, from the writings of Origen of Alexandria in the third century to the work of twentieth-century mystics such as Thomas Merton. Uniquely organized by subject rather than by author, The Essential Writings of Christian Mysticism explores how human life is transformed through the search for direct contact with God. Part one examines the preparation for encountering God through biblical interpretation and prayer; the second part focuses on the mystics’ actual encounters with God; and part three addresses the implications of the mystical life, showing how mystics have been received over time, and how they practice their faith through private contemplation and public actions.In addition to his illuminating Introduction, Bernard McGinn provides accessible headnotes for each section, as well as numerous biographical sketches and a selected bibliography.Praise for The Essential Writings of Christian Mysticism “No one is better equipped than Bernard McGinn to provide a thorough and balanced guide to this vast literature….This is an anthology which deserves to be read not only by those who study Christian history and theology, but by believers who long to deepen their own lives of prayer and service.” -- Anglican Theological Review“Bernard McGinn, a preeminent historian and interpreter of the Christian mystical tradition, has edited this fine collection of mystical writings, organizing them thematically....McGinn offers helpful introductions to each thematic section, author and entry, as well as a brief critical bibliography on mysticism. Published in the Modern Library Classic series, this is a great value.” – Christian Century"No-one is better equipped than Professor McGinn to provide a thorough and balanced guide to this vast literature. A first-class selection, by a first-class scholar." -- Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury “This accessible anthology by the scholarly world’s leading historian of the Western Christian mystical tradition easily outstrips all others in its comprehensiveness, the aptness of its selection of texts, and in the intelligent manner of its organization.” -- Denys Turner, Horace Tracy Pitkin Professor of Historical Theology, Yale Divinity School"An immensely rich anthology, assembled and introduced by our foremost student of mysticism. Both the scholar and the disciple will find God’s plenty here." -- Barbara Newman, Professor of English, Religion, and Classics, John Evans Professor of Latin, Northwestern University"An unusually clear and insightful exposition of major texts selected by one of the greatest scholars in the field of Christian mysticism, based on his vast erudition and uniquely sensitive interpretation. Like his other books, this one too is destined to become a classic.” -- Professor Moshe Idel, Hebrew University, Jerusalem

The Essential Writings of Christian Mysticism Details

TitleThe Essential Writings of Christian Mysticism
Author
FormatPaperback
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseDec 12th, 2006
PublisherModern Library
ISBN0812974212
ISBN-139780812974218
Number of pages559 pages
Rating
GenreReligion, Theology, Spirituality, Christianity, Occult, Mysticism, Nonfiction, History

The Essential Writings of Christian Mysticism Review

  • Rick Eng
    February 2, 2008
    Christian mysticism fascinates me: how can one set in words and attempt to describe an almost indescribable experience? How is one able to truly express their ultimate union with God in language? Any attempt to me is an admirable one and here you have a good cross section of writings by well known mystics, theologians and skeptics. The effusiveness of spiritual praises and declarations can be a bit overwhelming and exhausting.
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  • Matthew Green
    January 2, 2013
    My wife and I just finished a conversation wherein we both commented that we think Bernard McGinn is a phenomenal guy. Not just thinker, writer, theologian, etc. From everything we can discern from the little we’ve read from him, we just think he’s got to be a wonderful human being and a fine Christian.The Essential Writings of Christian Mysticism (2006) just seems to reinforce this. His writing is clear and flows well while his inclusion of such a diversity of material demonstrates his phenomen My wife and I just finished a conversation wherein we both commented that we think Bernard McGinn is a phenomenal guy. Not just thinker, writer, theologian, etc. From everything we can discern from the little we’ve read from him, we just think he’s got to be a wonderful human being and a fine Christian.The Essential Writings of Christian Mysticism (2006) just seems to reinforce this. His writing is clear and flows well while his inclusion of such a diversity of material demonstrates his phenomenal grasp of a wide range of historical figures (I suppose that’s not entirely surprising for a man who works in historical theology). But this is supposed to be more about the book than the man, so I’ve digressed before I’ve even begun.I’ll start the discussion on the book with a quick confession: I haven’t finished reading the thing. Note, it’s an anthology, so I may never read through its entirety. I normally wouldn’t find an anthology particularly noteworthy except for two relevant aspects of it. First, the breadth of the collection is astonishing. Each selection is only about 3 to 7 pages, so they’re not complete texts by any means, but there are probably 90 selections from more than half that many different sources. McGinn’s choices are wide ranging to say the least and extensive. Second, most anthologies of historical texts tend to be organized chronologically, and McGinn comments in his introduction that he has been working on another text organized in this fashion. This book, however, is organized by three major headers (Foundations of Mystical Practice, Aspects of Mystical Consciousness, and Implications of the Mystical Life) and a number of sub-divisions within each. Other anthologies have attempted to collect selections topically, though I often find the choices to be rather arbitrary. McGinn’s work to separate them out into so many different aspects of the discipline and to do so meticulously makes the book’s organization feel far more sensible and understandable than most, allowing one to discern what is most interesting or valuable with little trouble, or if one is more interested in reading directly through the text, the topical organization seems to keep the line of thought and reasoning clear as you move along. In addition, the very last sub-division is one on Contemplation and Action, which is just an excellent reminder and a fine place to end on a topic that can easily degrade into passivity and self-absorption.I like the text. If you’re curious about Christian mysticism, this is a pretty decent place to start. Admittedly, the selections themselves are often complex, but McGinn has chosen a number of very good and modern translations, occasionally editing them himself for clarity, which makes the reading as reachable as possible. And while I may disagree with some of the messages of the texts themselves (I always feel a little uneasy around Meister Eckhart), I’ve little qualms about the collection.
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  • David Withun
    June 10, 2012
    Overall, this book gave a decent general overview of Christian mysticism. My biggest complaint, though, was that there was too much focus on the West (and when the editor did use authors from the East, he chose pieces which are more in tune with Western Christianity than Eastern). There was also too much focus on very small heretical movements (why so many quotes from the Quietists?); their presence in the book was disproportionate to their presence in history. Not bad, but there's much better o Overall, this book gave a decent general overview of Christian mysticism. My biggest complaint, though, was that there was too much focus on the West (and when the editor did use authors from the East, he chose pieces which are more in tune with Western Christianity than Eastern). There was also too much focus on very small heretical movements (why so many quotes from the Quietists?); their presence in the book was disproportionate to their presence in history. Not bad, but there's much better out there.
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  • Walter
    December 10, 2010
    This compendium is impressive in both its depth and breadth. For example, one of its strengths is that it features not only the expected (e.g., Teresa of Avila, Meister Eckhart, Ignatius of Loyola, etc.), but also excerpts from lesser known seers (e.g., Francois Fenelon, Marguerite Porete, James of Vitry, etc.). In sum, this is a quite comprehensive survey of the major threads in Christian Mysticism in the past two millenia. Some of it is very heavy going, to be sure, but the brevity of the sele This compendium is impressive in both its depth and breadth. For example, one of its strengths is that it features not only the expected (e.g., Teresa of Avila, Meister Eckhart, Ignatius of Loyola, etc.), but also excerpts from lesser known seers (e.g., Francois Fenelon, Marguerite Porete, James of Vitry, etc.). In sum, this is a quite comprehensive survey of the major threads in Christian Mysticism in the past two millenia. Some of it is very heavy going, to be sure, but the brevity of the selections helps with these (and, of course, disappoints with others that are so compelling). For anyone seeking a tour through this incredible milieu, this book is a great place to start.
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  • Yaholo
    May 31, 2014
    A wonderful collection of writings all through the history of Christianity. While containing many expected works, it is the deep cuts and rare gems which make this collection shine. Even if you feel your library is exhaustive, this collection is still worth a look.
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  • Derrick Ferree
    February 15, 2017
    "No one is more shy than a contemplative... ...His contemplation gives him new outlook on the world of men. He looks about him with a secret and tranquil surmise which he perhaps admits to no one, hoping to find in the faces of other men or to hear in their voices some sign of vocation and potentiality for the same deep happiness and wisdom." I started reading this book almost four years ago when things got a little weird for me. Reading through it, it was nice to see where I might fit in on my "No one is more shy than a contemplative... ...His contemplation gives him new outlook on the world of men. He looks about him with a secret and tranquil surmise which he perhaps admits to no one, hoping to find in the faces of other men or to hear in their voices some sign of vocation and potentiality for the same deep happiness and wisdom." I started reading this book almost four years ago when things got a little weird for me. Reading through it, it was nice to see where I might fit in on my own spiritual journey. That being said, it's astouding the amount of thought and bickering people put into God and the Christian faith. Sometimes, I feel it is too much, and that it's simpler than people make it. The book is constructed well, and ends close to where I quote. It's a journey through spiritual maturity and even criticism. I think philosophers (without religious attachment) might even find it interesting. How can we touch, experience, hear or be in the presence of God?? This book gives you some good ideas based on the history of the mystics.... Don't call 'em heretics.
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  • Brad
    December 13, 2010
    This is, hands down, the best collection of it's kind that I have ever seen. It gives the good, the bad and the ugly, and doesn't allow the modern namby-pamby view of the ancient "mystics" that is offered by most Christian/New Age authors today. McGinn gives an incredibly rounded topical (rather than chronological) organization of mystical writings throughout the centuries of the Church Age. This volume is not for the faint of heart. If you "like the mystics" in the buffet table way of wanting t This is, hands down, the best collection of it's kind that I have ever seen. It gives the good, the bad and the ugly, and doesn't allow the modern namby-pamby view of the ancient "mystics" that is offered by most Christian/New Age authors today. McGinn gives an incredibly rounded topical (rather than chronological) organization of mystical writings throughout the centuries of the Church Age. This volume is not for the faint of heart. If you "like the mystics" in the buffet table way of wanting to take the relational aspect without the aestheticism McGinn rightly won't have it. The universalism and aestheticism is part of the package and the mystics have little to offer it you don't take the "whole pill." An honest exploration will prove that the pill doesn't offer much either, as it is always, at the end, works based salvation/sanctification. Which is never effective. (Gal. 2:20)
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  • Andrew
    May 25, 2008
    Picks the best sections of works from scores of theologians. Well-organized by themes. The short bibliographies are concise and do a great job of putting the texts into proper perspective so you get a sense of where each mystic got his/her ideas.Would certainly like to own a copy someday. A book I will go back to again and again, I'm sure.
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  • Amos Smith
    September 24, 2015
    If I were to recommend where to start when it comes to writings of Christian Mysticism, I would say start with this book. It is the best anthology of Christian mystical writings I know. And it's presented in a clear accessible way. Highly recommended!! -Amos Smith (author of Healing The Divide: Recovering Christianity's Mystic Roots)
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  • Adam
    May 4, 2009
    A wonderfully cryptic and strange cover design caught my eye instantly when I saw this book for the first time, even before I became familiar with McGinn as an author and historian. Again, another tome of interesting possibility that sits on my bedside table waiting for me.
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  • Fawn
    June 6, 2007
    I wish there were more writings by hadewijch of antwerp in this, but it covers a lot of ground... and the cover illustration ('christian allegory' by jan provost) is totally almost worth the price of the book alone.
  • Quin Herron
    June 2, 2016
    An engaging, wide ranging survey of Christian mystical thought and experience, this volume places mysticism in perspective with tradition throughout history as a controversial wellspring of spiritual understanding.
  • Megan
    August 25, 2011
    I think this book will forever be on my "currently reading" shelf for two reasons; it is so good & it is so long.
  • Joshua Kotzin
    August 28, 2011
    Haven't actually finished. Need to re-read.
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